Porthill–Spotlight

At a Busy Crossroads

By Isabel Huff

If you think this little town of one hundred people is a sleepy country village, think again. Porthill bustles with activity, as hundreds of tourists, commercial vehicles, and residents from both sides of the border make the customs offices very busy. Ever since 9/11, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has had beefed-up security, and all people crossing the border need passports.

But the Canada Border Services Agency’s port has no fences, gates, or warning signs. I remember a Canadian customs official commenting years ago, “It’s your side of the border that has gates locked at night.” U.S. customs is a part of Porthill, but the Canadian port has no settlement around it.

One of the busiest places in Porthill nowadays is the post office, for many Canadians take advantage of our favorable postal rates by having a mailbox here. Around noon, when the mail arrives, an influx of Canadians arrives for their mail, and they often continue on to a modular building where as many as three hundred packages a day are processed. Because of higher postage rates in Canada, many people from across the border have goods shipped to Porthill by private carrier. A Canadian friend told me that a sewing machine part she had sent to Porthill would have cost twenty dollars more if it had been sent to her house in Creston, just seven miles north.

Online companies that offer free shipping save Canadian consumers considerable money, but my friend tells me it hurts business in Creston. Instead of shopping locally, folks shop online for everything from baby gifts to books to expensive electronics. A two-sided coin, for sure.

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